Emergency Water Storage

Emergency Water Storage, Filtration, and Sourcing.

You may be familiar with the “Rule of 3s,” which reminds us that we can live:
  • 3 weeks without food
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 minutes without air
This is an excellent rule of thumb when prioritizing your needs in an emergency. In most environments, it takes a few days without water for your situation to turn dire and possibly life-threatening. And, in the worst conditions or the hottest days, you can be in trouble sooner. Remember that 70-75% of your total body composition is H20.

How Much Water Do You Need in an Emergency?
You should store at least one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation. You’ll need to determine how many days you want to keep water ( three days, two weeks, 30 days, or ??). Don’t forget you will use more for cleaning, cooking, and—yes—toilet flushing (for this you can also use collected rainwater from your roof, streams, or rain puddles).
How Should You Store Emergency Water?
Unopened, commercially bottled water is the safest, easiest, and most reliable source in an emergency. If purchasing commercially bottled water is unfeasible, you can store your own water. Here’s how:
  1. Make sure it is safe to drink. Tap water is fine; water from other sources may need to be treated first (see below).
  2. Obtain food-grade water storage containers  that will not transfer toxic substances into the water they are holding. Your containers can be as simple as repurposed plastic milk cartons, or you can purchase ones designed and manufactured specifically for water storage.
  3. Make sure the container is clean and sanitized. You can do this by mixing 1 tsp. of unscented bleach in 1 quart of water and swishing it around in the container (making sure the sanitizing bleach solution touches all inside surfaces of the container). Wait 30 seconds, then pour the sanitizing solution out of the container. Let it air-dry before use.
  4. Use a water preservation solution and rotate the water every six months. When you fill your container with water, make sure the lid is on tightly.

How Do You Make Water Safe to Drink?
In some emergencies, typical access to safe drinking water may not be possible (even in previously trusted water systems). If you know or suspect your water is unsafe, don’t use that water for drinking, washing dishes, brushing your teeth, preparing food, washing your hands, making ice, or making baby formula.

First, make your water safe to consume.  One option is to filter the water through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter. Then boil the water using the steps below:
  1. Bring the water to a rolling boil for one minute. (Reference our previous post on Emergency Light and Energy if power is lost.)
  2. Let the boiled water cool.
  3. Store the boiled water in clean, sanitized containers with a water preservation solution and tight covers.

Another step to ensure water safety for consumption is to use a water filtration system. There is good news on this front. You can find many easy-to-use options for filtrating water for safe consumption.
First are personal water filters. Many of us who hike, camp, or travel to countries with questionable water supplies are familiar with such filters. Variations of the Sawyer Mini System and the Life Straw are great options.  These filters will remove 99.9999% of all bacteria and protozoa.
Second are large-volume filtration systems, which may be needed in a prolonged emergency or if there are multiple people as in a family. Again, there are many options at various price points.

Some people may be interested in filtration alternatives that are designed to be used regularly, not just in emergencies. The Berkey Water Purification System is spendy but top of the line. A similar and less expensive option is the ProOne System.
Where Do I Find Water in an Emergency?
If you have a heads up that a possible emergency is coming that could compromise your water supply, find a way to quickly store as much water as possible. Fill your bathtubs, sinks, pots, and any large storage containers you have with water. You might also locate water in:
  • Hot Water Heater Tank – Immediately shut off your water main to prevent contaminated water from entering your hot water heater, which is a great source of emergency water. Shut off the power and gas to your hot water tank before you drain it so you don’t damage it and create a safety hazard.
  • Drain Your Pipes – If you live in a multi-level home, you can drain the water in your pipes by using gravity to your advantage. After the water lines into your house have been shut off, drain your pipes by using the lowest faucet in your house.
  • Rainwater – Use large pots and containers to catch and store rainwater. If you have room, you can gather larger quantities of water by spreading out a larger-sized piece of plastic that funnels down to a hole over a bucket.
  • Streams, ponds, water puddles (if in the winter), swimming pools, etc.

Hopefully, this is helpful as you consider a most important topic in any emergency: water!

Stay encouraged! And stay with the process. In your efforts toward emergency preparedness, don’t forget God’s promise found in Isaiah 41:10. "So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Next Week’s Topic: Strategic Plans for Connection and Communication in an Emergency.
Taking Action:
  • I have determined how much water I need to store.
  • I have determined the best way(s) for my household to store emergency water.
  • I have obtained or will soon obtain my water storage containers.
  • I have identified how I will make my drinking water safe to drink in an emergency.
  • I have obtained or will soon obtain what I need to provide safe drinking water.
  • I have water prepared and stored for an emergency for myself (and family).
  • I have made a plan for finding and obtaining water in an emergency.
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